As women, we need to be there for each other. And yet, I cannot tell you how many backhanded comments I’ve heard over the years: “How can you walk in those shoes?” “Is your hair real?” “Are you tired? Your face looks different.” “Why are you wearing so much makeup? You don’t want to look like a clown!” The list goes on.
I always feel a certain nervousness when it gets hotter in Claremont. As the weather heats up, my style inevitably shifts from baggy sweaters and leggings to crop tops and jean shorts. I worry about how my body will look different and find myself feeling insecure about the comments I will receive. They’re never overtly mean, but instead are subtly scathing, criticizing how my shorts are too short or how my chest is spilling out of my shirt. These comments highlight systemic insecurity and the judgmental attitude that many young women share.
To be fair, it makes sense where this is coming from. From a young age, we are bombarded with images of perfect airbrushed celebrities and Instagram models; we are told to look ‘natural’ while being sold 500 different makeup products and being confronted with idealized, surgically enhanced body types. Insecurity and confusion about the male gaze has caused us as women to tear each other down to reassure ourselves. This is a serious problem that needs to be discussed and explored.
As someone who is passionate about body positivity and self-expression, I try my best to be non-judgmental to myself and others. However, I still find myself comparing my body, makeup, and style to my friends. My friends ask me questions like, “What type of makeup do guys like?” “Is red lipstick too much?”, or “Do guys like big or small boobs?”, in a desperate attempt to please peers around them. While these little questions seem harmless at the moment, they hint at the deeper issue: self-hatred and comparison.
Fashion, and especially makeup, are two of the most powerful ways to express yourself. I can paint the night sky on my eyelids with a smokey eye, or wear long fake eyelashes to feel glamorous. I wish I could slip on a red party dress for Vegas Night, and then wear sweatpants and a baggy sweatshirt the next day and feel comfortable. These choices should be for ourselves, and they don’t define who we are as people or our personal values.
We need to stop making connections between how much or how little clothing someone is wearing and what that means about their life. Specifically, as women, we need to stop being snarky to each other and thus feeding into a system that’s built against us. The solution to this is awareness. We think cattiness comes from women being “bitchy” or bullying and, in fact, this catty behavior is praised by guys. They love to say “catfight” and feed into our drama and bullying. When one of your girlfriends makes a comment that doesn’t sit right with you, let her know how it makes you feel. Reinforce that your friend’s looks don’t relate to yours, and that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
I think real beauty comes from intelligence, confidence, and kindness. This process of reality-checking every time we feed into society’s beauty standards is tiring and difficult, but it’s worth it. Unfollow accounts that make you feel worse about yourself, follow fashion trends that excite you, and don’t be afraid to cover up or wear as little as you like. Celebrate your friends’ uniqueness and the things that make them different from you, because that’s what will start to dismantle this misogyny at the core of the idea of female beauty.
Anna Tolkien CM ’24 is a literature and film dual major. She loves her pugs, creative writing, and iced coffee.